One of the problems that building owners are going to have with demonstrating the buildings they own are safe is obtaining and keeping the relevant safety critical information (aka the Golden Thread) throughout the life of the building.
That means having accurate information about your building in the first place, and for any developments (new or refurbishment), asking for the right information from the development team to keep it up to date. The BIM for Housing Associations Toolkit is an attempt to give housing associations a kick start in this area, implementing the latest best practice on information management for construction projects. (BIM)
Of course, there are many other benefits to sound management of information about your buildings (asset information management). If you know exactly where all the windows are in your estate, how big they are and at what height, it is much easier to get an accurate quote for window cleaning. If you know what materials are on your flat roof and have a record of regular maintenance activities, it’s much easier to plan for a cycle of replacement and repair, and to claim on a warranty if you get a leak. Better information management is a no brainer really, which is why advocates have been banging on about BIM for so many years. It isn’t just the government; it makes commercial sense too.
Unfortunately, the standards and guidance around BIM, whilst comprehensive, are written in some foreign language mere mortals don’t understand. The Toolkit translates this guidance into more accessible language, mapping the procedures of BIM against the procedures which are familiar to asset management and development teams in the housing sector.
The standards and guidance also cover all development projects from houses and schools to roads and bridges, so not all of the contents is relevant. The toolkit, which is made specifically for housing associations, is a set of key resources that asset managers can use to get started. If they are already implementing BIM procedures, using the toolkit will help them make sure they are following best practice.
The BIM4HAs project is a collaborative one, bringing together asset managers from over twenty housing associations and local authorities together with consultants and contractors from across the country who have expertise implementing BIM. The asset managers learned a great deal from each other – including that they often use different language for the same thing and have different procedures. They helped articulate a consensus on the need for information and detail about what that need involves. The consultants and contractors helped the team translate those needs into tools that align with the standards, incorporating useful future proofing like UniClass classifications. Housing associations use loads of different software platforms but using BIM procedures properly should help them extract and import the right information into these platforms, look at how their IT systems can be improved and make decisions about where to invest to get the best results.
It’s a small project, just a short link in a long chain, but has taken two years and over 60 people to make it relevant and compliant. Hopefully it will act as a catalyst for other sectors (including the private sector) to get their house in order.
Of course, the Toolkit is just v1.0 and there will be improvements, additional tools and no doubt the correction of some typos! And we must help the sector understand it and learn how to use it, giving us their feedback and sharing their experiences so we can implement continuous improvement. For this reason, we’ve set up a Forum on MS Teams where people can ask questions and we can build up a community of knowledge and work towards v2.0.
If you work in housing, please share the toolkit landing page with your colleagues and encourage them to get involved.
The landing page for the Toolkit, which is on the National Housing Federation website, includes
- a link to download the Toolkit – which is free to use,
- a link to sign up to the Forum, and
- a link to sign up to the lunchtime launch event which will be on Monday 12 July at 1pm.
We hope to see you there.